My main computer is a MacBook Pro. I use it every day for my job as a Product Marketing Manager, and every night for working on side projects or just kicking around.
The other computer I own is a PC, originally purchased with the anticipation that I would get into gaming.
The MacBook Pro is not much more than a few years old. The PC, on the other hand, is now 11 years old (!). It still runs nicely, but I barely use it nowadays (maybe once a week).
Due for repair
For a period of time last year, the PC replaced the Mac as my main machine. Let me explain.
My MacBook Pro needed to be serviced by Apple to address defects in the keyboard. It qualified under Apple’s special recall program to repair or replace problematic keyboards at their expense. (The cause was a novel but ill-fated “butterfly” switch design in 2015-2019 MacBooks. Refer to this blog post for more information.)
I bought the MacBook Pro in July 2017. Apple’s keyboard service program would expire after 4 years from the initial purchase, which meant that I had until July 2021 to claim a free repair for my Mac.
I wanted to get the Mac serviced in 2020, but that wasn’t possible due to Apple Stores shut down for most of the year. The first opportunity finally came up the following spring, so I immediately took advantage.
A PC from 2010 comes to the rescue
But very soon after I dropped off my Mac at the local Apple Store, I came to the realization that I had a big problem.
At work, we were in the midst of a major product launch. One thing I urgently needed to do was create graphical animations to help promote the features of the new product.
Animated content creation requires ample computing power and Adobe After Effects, both available in my Mac. But without it in hand, I was stuck!
Or so I thought. I wondered if my 11-year old gaming PC would be up to the task. After all, I had used this PC for years with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
Let me tell you a little more about this PC.
- I ordered a custom-built, fully decked-out computer in 2010. It had all the latest specs and features, and I thought I would use it to get into gaming.
- A few years later, I decided to splurge on a high-end graphics card for the PC. Along the way, I also beefed up the RAM.
- As it turns out, I never got into gaming. So for over a decade, the PC was overkill for most of my everyday activities with it.
Continuing my story – I decided to install After Effects and see how it ran on a 2010 machine. Other than a small amount of lag (when compared to the Mac), I was actually able to do everything necessary to execute my projects. Amazing!
A helpful factor in making this a success was doing the production in 1080p. It might well have been less than favorable if I was working in 4K.
Yes, you can use an old PC for 4K video editing!
While I was using this computer for work projects, I also wanted to create a video. And yes, this machine from 2010 served just fine for a 4K production. Below is what I published while my Mac was in the shop.
How is it possible to do 4K editing on an old computer? It’s pretty simple. You create what is known as a proxy, which is a lower resolution of the original 4K camera footage that you use for editing and processing. Typically, proxies are created at HD resolution, sometimes even lower.
Once you’ve finished your editing and other work, the final video is rendered using the original footage.
It’s very common for video content creators to edit with proxies. It’s what makes it possible to work with 4K video without having to upgrade to the latest and greatest Mac or PC. It even makes 8K editing a reality today.
Without using proxies, it would surely have been difficult to scrub through 4K video on the PC. Again, I was amazed and impressed at what this machine could still do today.
This experience reinforced two things I’ve always known about buying computers. First, a PC (or Mac) can last far longer than you might realize. I think most PCs or Macs should be able to provide 4 to 5 years of very useful life. The exceptions would be if you are a dedicated gamer, or a serious video creator – both typically chase after the technical bleeding edge which translates to the fastest and most powerful processing available.
The second takeaway from using my old PC is that it’s all too easy to go overkill on the computer you think you need. We always think having the latest and greatest, the most CPU and graphics processing we can afford is the way to go when buying a new machine. But if it ends up lasting well over 5 years with no trouble, it’s a very good sign you over-specified your computer in the first place.
The good news, however, is that you won’t have to buy a new one for at least a while longer. PCs really do have greater longevity than you think.